Updated: Apr 13, 2020
What is the key to a successful workout? What about a week of successful workouts? A month? A whole season? To put it another way, what is the difference between a successful workout and an unsuccessful workout in terms of what an athlete such as yourself can do?
I think the answer is preparation. Everyone has that one friend who always seems to break all their gear and constantly has mechanicals on rides and during races. In contrast, we all know that person who is always dialed. They never get flats, they're always dressed correctly for the weather, plenty of ride food, extra tubes, you name it. That is preparation. The rider who is unaffected by such issues is who nails their rides day in and day out making them count.
At the surface, there are things like remembering to pump up your tires and lube your chain. To go deeper, making sure any larger mechanical issues are taken care of and your bike receives proper maintenance so that mechanicals cannot detract from your workout. I know that I have put off fixes or replacing parts and all of a sudden it fails on me during a ride or I have a preventable flat in the middle of an interval. It can be annoying, frustrating, and can ruin your flow. Although some mechanicals are random, most are preventable. Keeping tabs on how many miles it’s been since you replaced your chain, power meter battery, brakes pads, the cleats on your shoes, etc can all help. Making a checklist of things to inspect on your bike at the beginning of the week or each month is helpful. Lastly, regularly washing your bike is huge! If you ask any pro mechanic, washing your rig not only helps improve the functionality and lifespan of your bike, but also provides you with a great opportunity to find damage and other issues you might have otherwise missed beneath the dirt.
Proper maintenance goes beyond just your bike. Taking care of your helmet, shoes, glasses, kit, water bottles and more is crucial. Having your laundry done ahead of time so you have kit to wear is important. Remember to clean or dry shoes and other equipment so that it's ready to roll. Charge your Garmin after every ride. One small thing I always do is clean my glasses before I put them away in the case, that way they are always 100% ready to go for the next ride or race. Simply taking the time to maintain your gear will help you be more prepared and keep your equipment in better shape. It’s not difficult to do, I often remind myself, “do it now so that you don’t have to do it later.”
Physical and psychological care and preparation is paramount as well. It doesn’t do you any good to show up on race day with your bike and gear totally dialed if you only slept three hours the night before. The number one thing you can do for recovery is getting enough sleep so that you are well-rested and motivated. You always hear people talking about marginal gains and at a certain level of competition that can be important. But, proper sleep and nutrition are what deserve the majority of your attention. Once that is dialed, lock in all the smaller easy things that you can do like developing a routine of stretching and foam rolling. As I just mentioned, pre/post-workout nutrition is crucial as well as planning out nutrition during the workout. Your body needs good fuel before your workout, during, and after. Thinking about and planning out what you will eat for those three stages is surefire way to ensure you have the fuel needed to start your workout, the fuel to execute during your workout, and the nutrition needed for your body to properly recover and maximize the benefits of your workout.
Finally, overall life organization and planning is huge. It is by no means easy. Life happens, stuff comes up, plans change, but everyone is capable of being prepared and adapting to make it work. Planning a few days in advance of what your route will be, where you will do your intervals, when you will ride, how long, etc can all help. Managing other life stress such as school or work so that you are not rushed or stressed to squeeze in your workouts every day, or worrying about a big assignment that is due soon while you're trying to hit some efforts. Taking care of business beforehand or having a plan to execute what needs to be done afterwards can help you be in the moment during your workout and be less stressed. The final thing to touch on for this is communication with your coach. Your training plan needs to work for you and your life, not the other way around. Conveying your schedule and needs to your coach helps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your training and that is a two-way street. A good coach will be asking those important questions and building your plan around you.
When you put in a little extra effort to prepare in these ways, it helps you put more energy into your workouts. nobody is capable of doing all of these things every day. That would be unreasonable and unnecessarily stressful to hold yourself accountable for that all of the time. Think about the things you know you struggle with, or the things you want to improve on. Make a checklist, write it on a whiteboard or use whatever method you know works for you. Hold yourself accountable to make sure you are prepared one step at a time and before you know it you've taken your training to the next level.